Cambridge Independent, 20th February 2020
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Domingo Hindoyan at Cambridge Corn Exchange

The soloist for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15 was multi-award- winning British pianist Leon McCawley who in many respects, one would have to say, is the perfect pianist.

McCawley gave a spellbinding performance of this concerto…[he] was superlative in the first movement’s lengthy cadenza (one of three Beethoven wrote for the concerto), and in the expansive and serene Largo where, towards the end, delicate trills and a throbbing, ever so slightly troubled, intervention in the lower keys leads on to the sprightly and spirited rondo.

Leon McCawley’s understanding of this beautiful music was complete. At one point he produced a handkerchief and wiped away a tear, was it? One would like to think so. It was impossible not to be moved by both the ability of the composer to create such a thing, and a performer who could engage with it so masterfully.
John Gilroy

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Seen and Heard International, 2nd September 2019
BBC Concert Orchestra/Bramwell Tovey at BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall

John Ireland’s Piano Concerto…received an ideal performance from McCawley, Tovey and the orchestra. There can be a tendency for rhythms to become a bit too insistent in the first movement, which leads to feeling of heaviness, but though the ebb and flow of Ireland’s rhapsodic but slightly melancholic invention was clearly defined on this occasion, accents were lightly applied and the music emerged in all its highly individual beauty. McCawley’s tone quality was conspicuously lovely here and in a most poetic account of the slow movement. The tempo of the main part of the finale…seemed just right as played here, and hopefully this performance as a whole will have won many new friends for a very significant concerto.
Alan Sanders

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La Nueva España, Asturias 12th May 2019
Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias/Hans Graf at Auditorio Principe Felipe, Oviedo

A vibrant journey of German Romanticism in the hands of McCawley and Hans Graf

Without a doubt, McCawley was one of the attractions of the evening. His style, intimate and technically imposing, fitted like a glove for the interpretation of the Schumann concerto, and was in evidence even more so in the ‘Liebeslied’ encore, played with such sensitivity and delicacy.
Jonathan Mallada

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El Comercio, Asturias 21st January 2017
Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias/Manuel López-Gómez at Teatro Jovellanos, Gijón

This was a passionate and poetic Beethoven [Piano Concerto No. 3], full of energy and rhythm. McCawley is a pianist with a very lyrical and poetic touch, so transparent and precise. McCawley also interpreted Schubert’s well-known Moment Musical in F Minor performed with delicious mordents.
Ramón Avello

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La Nueva España Digital 21st January 2017
Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias/Manuel López-Gómez at Auditorío Principe Felipe, Oviedo

The pianist was Leon McCawley, a Briton who plays without using any artificial ‘tricks’ and for this reason he has gained his international fame. His interpretation of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3 in C minor was distinguished by its purity and clarity, which the audience received with rapturous applause. It’s not surprising that McCawley won First Prize in the 1993 International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna. The additional ‘gift’ that McCawley gave to the audience was Rachmaninov’s Prelude in G major. His playing was both delicate and intimate and the audience showed their appreciation through extensive applause.
Andrea G. Torres

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El Norte, Monterrey, Mexico 5th November 2016
Orquesta Sinfónica e la UANL/Jesús Medina

The greatness of Mozart’s work lies in the simplicity of his melodies, which requires the interpreter, paradoxically, high precision and ease at the same time. Both qualities were in evidence in the interpretation offered by the Briton, Leon McCawley of Piano Concerto No. 21 of the Austrian composer in the fifth season concert of the Orquesta Sinfónica de la UANL, directed by Jesús Medina. The soloist, expert in Mozart, conveyed the energy of the first and third movement of the piece, as well as the sweetness of the famous tune of the second movement, full of sensitivity, but with a touch of playfulness in the change in dynamic.
Luis Lopez

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Boulezian 13th April 2016
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Hilary Davan Wetton at Cadogan Hall April 12th 2016

Leon McCawley joined the orchestra for an excellent performance of the C major Piano Concerto, KV 467. Davan Wetton imparted a fine sense of the martial quasi-neo-Classicism to the opening tutti. Sternness but also a willingness to yield were hallmarks of the performance as a whole. Lovely wind playing was answered by McCawley’s pearly tone, every note weighed for its colour, without a hint of pedantry. The music ‘flowed like oil’, as someone once said. Trills were an especial joy. The second group was, rightly, both related and contrasted to what had gone before, form assuming its own dynamism and balance. The piano writing looked forward at times to Beethoven, without ever sounding quite ‘like’ him. Nina Milkina’s cadenza here (and in the finale) offered a winning sense of fidelity through Romantic anachronism. The slow movement benefited from beautiful string playing, a perfect marriage of arco and pizzicato redolent of warm evening serenades. If that evoked Salzburg, McCawley’s piano evoked Vienna, and rightly so. Phrasing was inobtrusively ‘right’, a tribute to soloist, orchestra, and conductor alike. Above all, the music sang. The finale emerged as heir to both its predecessors, the RPO woodwind leading us into a veritable garden of delights. Chamber and orchestral tendencies were held in splendid balance throughout.
Mark Berry

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Bachtrack February 13th 2015
St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Dmitriev at The Anvil, Basingstoke

Leon McCawley, the soloist for Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no. 1 in B flat minor, made a far more memorable impression and there was now a frisson of excitement in the hall…Dmitriev created just the right tempo for the opening Allegro non troppo to allow McCawley to express both aching tenderness in the first movement’s plaintive gestures and terror in its homicidal octaves which were thrilling in their propulsive vigour…Flute and oboe made sensitive solo contributions in the slow movement, as did two cellists and McCawley seemed to enjoy himself in the quicksilver Prestissimo. It was in the final pages of the Allegro con fuoco, where his exhilarating scales helped lift the performance onto another plane and demonstrate how good this orchestra can be. Further demonstration of McCawley’s artistry was heard in the gentle lyricism of Rachmaninov’s Prelude in G major, Op.32, no. 5 that served as an encore.
David Truslove

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The Journal 20th January 2015
Royal Northern Sinfonia/John Wilson at The Sage, Gateshead

And if the first piece was hypnotic, the second was truly mesmerising. It brought the acclaimed, multi award-winning British pianist Leon McCawley on stage for George Gershwin’s iconic Piano Concerto in F major.

This was irresistible music played with panache and great freedom, and imbued with so many of Gershwin’s compositional trademarks. The very embodiment of the dazzling creativity and vitality of New York in the mid-1920s, the sound balance between pianist and orchestra was perfect.
Rob Barnes

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El Norte, Monterrey, November 15th 2014
OSUANL/Guillermo Salvador in Monterrey, Mexico

The soloist played a model Mozart; precise, light, crystalline and with a well-conceived musical fluidity. The tempi were just perfect. Many years have passed since I have heard such a fine performance of a Mozart piano concerto [K.488]. The University Orchestra, with Mexican Guillermo Salvador at the baton was also a notable contributor to the work’s success.
Gabriel Rangel

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Seen and Heard International November 2nd 2014
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Kirill Karabits at Cadogan Hall, London

Leon McCawley has made a close study of Mozart’s piano music so it was good to hear him putting his own personal stamp on this concerto [K.488]. Karabits and the RPO took a robust approach to the opening exposition while at the same time retaining a sense of Classical elegance. McCawley was clearly in complete agreement as regards interpretation: his playing was crisp and elegant but without being unduly precious while the passage work was played with a high degree of technical finish and attention to detail. There was excellent rapport and interplay with the RPO and McCawley brought a vibrancy and an instinctive naturalness to the piano writing. The tempo for the F sharp minor Adagio was well judged and McCawley played the opening in a richly expressive and romantic way – this was absolutely gorgeous playing. The central section had real charm and the final section, where the piano is accompanied by pizzicato strings, was highly charged and atmospheric. The tempo was again well judged for the finale – pianists sometimes play the opening too fast, creating subsequent difficulties for the woodwind players. The central section had a bubbling effervescence and there was a playful quality to some of the exchanges with the woodwind. I thought this was a first rate piece of playing by McCawley with Karabits and the RPO providing strong support.
Robert Beattie

– – – September 29th 2014
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra/Stefan Blunier at National Concert Hall Dublin

The stage is reset for Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor…McCawley’s playing is immaculate and sensitive, and both he and the orchestra seem to relish each other’s company – leading to an intimate performance that captures the chamber-music-like aspects of Schumann’s work…a fabulous performance of the concerto.
Anthony Brooks

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Dorset Echo October 17th 2013
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Owain Arwel Hughes at Lighthouse, Poole

Leon McCawley was the soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3 in which his reprise of the introductory orchestral themes was garnished with colourful tints. Completing the impressive cadenza, he trilled gracefully towards the mysterious timpani’s solo role and released the final orchestral engagement. Serenely cogent, McCawley’s latent care prepared spacious solos in the Largo with an unusual degree of humility and led on to the dramatic keyboard traversals of the finale with arresting virtuosity.
Mike Marsh

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Bath Chronicle October 13th 2013
Bath Philharmonia/Jason Thornton at Bath Abbey

In complete contrast, Leon McCawley played two Mozart Piano Concertos, 12 and 13 and Britten’s Young Apollo. This was a prodigious paradigm of pianism, technically outstanding, with Bath Phil under leader Gilly Findlay, lending sympathetic support. I especially remember the quite exquisite Andante from Mozart 13, with its vivid yet restful tranquillity wonderfully recreated by McCawley and the utterly different keyboard fireworks of the Britten. What a piece to play! And what a colossal performance.
Peter Lloyd Williams

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Stratford-upon-Avon Herald March 21st 2013
Orchestra of the Swan/David Curtis

It is difficult to describe the sheer brilliance of McCawley’s performance. The Britten [Young Apollo] calls for intensity and sparkle, and an energetic muscularity. McCawley supplied all the dexterity and digital articulation the piece calls for, backed by emotionally evocative accompaniment from a chamber-sized Orchestra of the Swan.

Mozart [Piano Concerto No. 12 K.414] requires from his performers not only precise articulation but also a graceful sense of the piano’s potential for lyricism, warmth and colour. Again, McCawley was more than equal to the task, ranging from the melodious emotionalism of the second movement’s Andante to the impish rhythms of the third movement. It was especially good to see and hear the sympathetic engagement of the soloist with the orchestra strings, more collaboration than counterpoint.
Sandy Holt

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Birmingham Post March 21st 2013
Orchestra of the Swan/David Curtis at Birmingham Town Hall

Leon McCawley was the generously committed soloist [in Britten’s Young Apollo], energetic in the opening movement’s momentum and he shared a wonderfully alert sense of ensemble with Curtis and the orchestra.

…[an] engaging account of the early [Mozart] A major Concerto K414…[with] McCawley’s neat clarity, uncluttered singing phrasing and sense of line direction.
Christopher Morley

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Bachtrack January 28th 2013
Philharmonia/John Wilson at Royal Festival Hall

The centrepiece of this matinee was John Ireland’s Piano Concerto…Pianist Leon McCawley’s superb, faultless playing brought out as much as possible of the expressiveness of the lento second movement, whilst obviously enjoying himself in the almost jazz-like sections of the first and third movements.
Julia Savage

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Classical Source January 21st 2013
Philharmonia/John Wilson at Royal Festival Hall

Leon McCawley played [John Ireland’s Piano Concerto] immaculately…[a] first-rate contribution, together with those of Wilson and the Philharmonia.
Richard Landau

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D Magazine August 29th 2012
Fort Worth Symphony/Miguel Harth-Bedoya at Bass Hall

On Friday night, British pianist Leon McCawley joined the orchestra and music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya for Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety, a work of Mahleresque proportions written in 1949 and inspired by W.H. Auden’s extended poem of the same name. The work resonated powerfully…with a topnotch performance by McCawley of the demanding piano obbligato.
Wayne Lee Gay

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Theater Jones August 25th 2012
Fort Worth Symphony/Miguel Harth-Bedoya at Bass Hall

The orchestra played beautifully and pianist Leon McCawley turned in a terrific performance of Bernstein’s hybrid score (part symphony and part piano concerto).

The take-away impression of the concert was the stunning performance of Bernstein’s rarely performed symphony.
Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

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Fort Worth Star Telegram August 24th 2012
Fort Worth Symphony/Miguel Harth-Bedoya at Bass Hall

McCawley’s at times sensitive, at times brilliant playing [of Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety] seemed right on.
Olin Chism

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Philadelphia Inquirer February 14th 2012
Curtis Symphony Orchestra/Miguel Harth-Bedoya at Kimmel Center

The work [Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety] is not a piano concerto, although Leon McCawley must have used most of his considerable gifts in meeting the demands in writing that changes moods and pulse. His playing moved through a wide flow of color in mirroring the many states of mind.
Daniel Webster

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Northern Echo March 14th 2011
Northern Sinfonia/John Wilson at The Sage Gateshead

Next up was Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto 2, fronted by Leon McCawley. The opening bells like chords were laid out with deliberate care, leading into a magnificent entry by the Sinfonia. The synergy between soloist and orchestra was complete; with Wilson shaping marvellously expansive phrasing that surged with poetic power. McCawley’s treatment of the slow movement was a study in aching beauty, as he invested each note with eloquent meaning. The rush through the tumultuous final movement saw razor sharp exchanges with the orchestra. Another gem of a concert.
Gavin Engelbrecht

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The Dallas Morning News March 7th 2011
Fort Worth Symphony/Miguel Harth-Bedoya at Bass Hall

The piano part [of the Barber concerto] is of legendary difficulty, but British pianist Leon McCawley dispatched it brilliantly.
Scott Cantrell

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram March 5th 2011
Fort Worth Symphony/Miguel Harth-Bedoya at Bass Hall

The first part of the program was devoted to Barber’s concerto, with Leon McCawley as the soloist. He was impressive in dealing with the work’s many bravura passages as well as its underlying lyricism (especially in the slow movement).
Olin Chism

– – – March 5th 2011
Fort Worth Symphony/Miguel Harth-Bedoya at Bass Hall

McCawley was just amazing as he negotiated Barber’s fists full of notes. He was equally effective in the more lyrical passages. It was just a terrific reading of the piece. The orchestra responded in kind and the sum total turned out to be a firecracker of a performance.
Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

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Birmingham Post March 4th 2011
CBSO Youth Orchestra/John Wilson at Symphony Hall

Concerto-collaboration is another of the CBSOYO’s great strengths, and in the fascinating, irresistible Gershwin Piano Concerto there was a wonderful pat-a-cake of interplay between the smiling orchestra and soloist Leon McCawley. McCawley was alive to all the music’s nuances, combining Fifth Avenue jazziness with Rachmaninovian figurations.

Rating *****
Christopher Morley

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Guardian March 3rd 2010
Royal Philharmonic/Hilary Davan Wetton at the Barbican

Leon McCawley was the exemplary piano soloist here [Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia], as he was in the Emperor Concerto, which he played with commanding technical authority and a shining, enriched tone.
George Hall

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International Piano Sept/Oct 2009
BBC Proms with BBC Philharmonic/Sinaisky

Certainly the Fantasia, largely unaccompanied and evincing a generalised rhetoric that is its nearest approximation to ‘grand’,is not without an element of self-consciousness, so all credit to Leon McCawley for making it seem so organic while also implying a greater tonal and textural variety that is actually the case. Nor was he at all lacking vitality in the Toccata, Finzi’s longest stretch of fast music and with a curiously ironic edge to its virtuosity that was no less well conveyed.
Richard Whitehouse

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Times Online August 2nd 2009
BBC Proms/BBC Philharmonic 23rd July 2009

Leon McCawley a brilliant soloist…
Paul Driver

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Music Web International 23rd July 2009
BBC Proms/BBC Philharmonic

Between the Symphonies we heard the Proms premiere of Gerald Finzi’s Grand Fantasia and Toccata- a marvellous work full of wit and with a dance of life to cap it. Leon McCawley was a fine soloist, giving the six, or so, minutes of (solo) pseudo Bach Fantasia in a bold and forthright manner and with the orchestra dancing for joy in the Toccata.
Bob Briggs

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Classical Source August 2008 (
Mostly Mozart Festival at the Barbican August 1st 2008

Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Carlo Rizzi Mozart K.482

Leon McCawley was the soloist for one of Mozart’s grandest piano concertos. Eschewing sensationalism, this was everything one could wish for in a performance on modern instruments. Proving himself a natural Mozartean, McCawley didn’t try to do too much with the music, letting it – in the manner of Brendel – speak for itself. Demonstrating artless fluidity, McCawley’s uncomplicated approach produced joyous results in the ebullient first movement. Following suit, Rizzi and the ASMF provided alert accompaniment.

The soulful lament of the central Andante was intense but not over-romanticised; and if the contrasting passages featuring the superb wind section could have been characterised more, the players were impressively sure-footed and in-keeping with the restrained mood. The playful finale radiated an infectious sense of fun. Mozart’s ‘surprise’ minuet, inserted halfway through, was too slow; but it gave McCawley the chance to embellish with some tasteful ornamentation. As in the opening movement, McCawley concluded with a deliciously mischievous – but stylish – cadenza by Nina Milkina. If only there were more performances of Mozart’s piano concertos as consistent and compelling as this one was.
Graham Rogers

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Philadelphia Inquirer July 5th 2008
Philadelphia Orchestra/Rossen Milanov at Mann Music Center

Inspiration in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E Flat Major, K. 482, came in the form of the soloist, Leon McCawley. You could hear the orchestra in places meeting his musicality, finding a shared philosophy rooted in a concept of refined sound.

The London-based pianist, who studied at the Curtis Institute of Music with Eleanor Sokoloff, is a master of tone and articulation. He is able to connect a string of notes so that one seems to begin before the last one stops – yet each is distinct. He is unfailingly expressive, forming phrases that ask questions and making strikingly original statements.
Peter Dobrin

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The Dundee Courier March 29th 2008
Camerata Scotland/Diego Masson

Leon McCawley was the dazzling soloist in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G. The clarity of the Perth Concert Hall has often been praised before and it fully allowed the precision and detail of the playing to come through.In the lively first movement the jazzy and blues nature of the work received its full due, with the anarchic final bars and resounding thump as a sonic delight in itself. Poise and beauty of line were key in the slow movement.

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Aberdeen Press and Journal March 28th 2008
Camerata Scotland/Diego Masson

…the ensemble were joined by one of the UK’s finest young pianists, Leon McCawley, for the Ravel Piano Concerto in G. Mr. McCawley found the perfect balance between carnival and charisma.
Roddy Philips

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Cincinnati Post November 17th 2006
Cincinnati Symphony/ Gianandrea Noseda

British pianist McCawley, whose acclaimed recordings include the complete Mozart piano sonatas, did not disappoint. His performance of Mozart’s great D Minor Piano Concerto, K.466, was polished to a high sheen. There was a focused solidity to his tone that served this music well, and he laid out the most strenuous passages like strings of pearls.

The chipper little tune that opens the Romanza contrasted nicely with its animated mid-section. McCawley announced the finale with a dramatic flourish, a quality he also brought to the first and last movement cadenzas, both by Beethoven.
Mary Ellyn Hutton

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Cincinnati Enquirer November 17th 2006
Cincinnati Symphony/ Gianandrea Noseda

…Mozart’s Concerto in D Minor, K. 466 was the picture of refinement. British pianist Leon McCawley, making his debut, is a virtuoso whose playing was all about clarity, grace and beauty of tone. This Mozart, with such lightness of touch and shorter bows in the orchestra, was a rarity.

That’s not to say McCawley couldn’t conjure drama when needed; his cadenzas, by Beethoven, were ablaze with color. McCawley let the beauty of the music shine with no trace of ego.
Janelle Gelfland

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Irish News November 13th 2006
Ulster Orchestra/ Tuomas Ollila at Ulster Hall, Belfast

But the highlight of the evening came with the performance of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor and the evening’s soloist Leon McCawley.

The highly acclaimed British pianist wooed the Ulster Hall audience with his commanding technical and interpretative flair. The adagio second movement was especially well paced and coloured. A Friday evening well spent.
Richard Yarr

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Irish Independent November 11th 2006
Ulster Orchestra/ Tuomas Ollila at National Concert Hall, Dublin

The concerto, in which Maestro Ollila provided sympathetic support, introduced English pianist Leon McCawley to the NCH platform. His interpretation came from thoughtful perceptiveness rather than flashy showmanship and, as a result, Grieg’s melodic invention enjoyed a natural flow.
Pat O’Kelly

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Irish Times 11th November 2006
Ulster Orchestra/ Tuomas Ollila

British pianist Leon McCawley offered a clean and cool account of the Grieg Piano Concerto. He shunned sentimentality and sculpted the music with consistent intelligence.
Michael Derwan

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Birmingham Mail Mar 11 2006
CBSO/Andrew Litton Beethoven 1 8th March 2006

Soloist Leon McCawley played with a fluidity, passion and virtuosity that understandably won enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Paul Fulford

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Birmingham Post March 10 2006
CBSO/ Andrew Litton at Symphony Hall

In terms of integrity and belief in the soul’s indomitability it’s not too much of a step from Shostakovich to Beethoven, whose First Piano Concerto launched the evening in a warm-hearted collaboration with the popular and much admired Leon McCawley.

Infusing every note and phrase with thoughtful colour, subtly hinting at underlying drama, McCawley’s reading was matched by sympathetic, appreciative orchestral responses under the musicianly Litton-no mean pianist himself.
Christopher Morley

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Hampstead and Highgate Express August 5 2005
Mostly Mozart Festival/ Barbican with Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields/ John Nelson

…the Concerto No 11 in D major Hob. XVIII [Haydn] is probably the best known and Leon McCawley offered as an impeccable and expressive performance of it as one might hear. McCawley’s performing version included the cadenzas of Nina Milkina, which he played with just the right amount of expressive feeling and clarity and his tempi throughout seemed well in keeping with 18th century mannerisms.
David Sonin

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